Precocious or Early Puberty: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention
What is Precocious or Early Puberty?
Precocious puberty is an early changing of child’s body appearance into an adult. Precocious or early puberty begins before the age of 9 years in boys and before 8 years in girls.
Recent studies show that signs of precocious or early puberty are often present in girls. Precocious or early puberty in African-American races are between the ages 6 to 8-year-old girls, which are very physically and emotionally difficult for them. There’s nothing seriously wrong when your child is probably just on the early side of normal. And although he/she may suffer some social or physical abuse for a time, the rest of his/her class won't be far behind. Let us discuss all about the precocious or early puberty.
How Early Do Girls Start Puberty?
Normally, puberty starts between the ages of 8 to 13 years in girls. But in the event that your kids started to develop breasts, pubic hair and mature body odor before the age of 8, then their experiencing precocious or early puberty.
What is Considered Precocious or Early Puberty In Girls?
Puberty typically occurs between 8 and 13 years in girls and usually takes 4 to 5 years, but some will go through puberty earlier without any reason. If there are signs of puberty before 8 years in girls, it is considered to be precocious puberty. When only breast development is involved it is known as premature thelarche and if there is only pubic hair development, it is known as premature adrenarche or pubarche.
Causes of Precocious or Early Puberty
Precocious or early puberty causes are not easily to find out. It is very helpful to know and understand what causes precocious or early puberty in some children. This process includes the following steps:
- The brain start to process and make a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH).
- Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which are released by the pituitary gland because of GN-RH hormone.
- Producing of sex hormones. The LH and FSH cause the ovaries and testicles to produce hormones, which involved with the growth and development of male and female sexual characteristics.
The causes of precocious or early puberty depends on its types:
- Type 1: Central precocious or early puberty.
- Type 2: Peripheral precocious or early puberty.
Causes of Central Precocious or Early Puberty:
The cause of central precocious or early puberty is not known but in few rare cases:
- A tumor in spine or brain can cause central precocious or early puberty.
- Brain defects at birth such as hamartoma or hydrocephalus can be the cause.
- If a child is exposed to radiation, especially to spine or brain.
- An injury to spine or brain can also cause the problem.
- Hypothyroidism, Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, McCune-Albright syndrome- all these diseases can cause central precocious or early puberty in a child.
Causes of Peripheral Precocious or Early Puberty:
The peripheral precocious or early puberty is not very common. The early release of testosterone in boys and estrogen in girls causes peripheral precocious or early puberty.
The causes of peripheral precocious or early puberty include:
- McCune-Albright syndrome.
- Applying ointments or creams which contain estrogen or testosterone can cause peripheral precocious or early puberty.
Signs and Symptoms of Precocious or Early Puberty
The following are the symptoms of precocious puberty:
- Breast growth.
- Menarche or first period.
- Enlargement of penis and testicles.
- Facial hair which initially grows on the upper lip.
- Lowering of voice.
- Pubic and underarm hair.
- Acne is major symptom of precocious or early puberty.
- Rapid growth.
- Body odor.
Tests to Diagnose Precocious or Early Puberty
The doctor will ask some question and run some test to your child to diagnose precocious puberty and these include the following:
- Physical examination.
- Review family’s medical history.
- Blood test to check the hormone levels in the body.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used to rule out medical condition like tumors, which can cause central precocious puberty.
- Thyroid testing may also be done for diagnosing central precocious or early puberty.
Tests are also done to find out the type of precocious or early puberty, for this the physician injects Gn-RH hormone and then test the patients blood. The Gn-RH hormone will increase the other hormone levels in kids with central precocious or early puberty and the other levels stay constant if the child has peripheral precocious or early puberty.
Treatment for Precocious or Early Puberty
The main objective of the treatment for precocious or early puberty is to make sure that the kid grows to a normal height of an adult.
If the underlying condition is not present, the treatment for central precocious or early puberty will be treated with medicines. A monthly medicine or injection is given to the kid to delay the development. This will be done until the child reaches the normal age of puberty.
In case, there is an underlying condition which is causing precocious or early puberty, then by treating the underlying condition, the problem of precocious or early puberty will be taken care of.
Home Remedies for Precocious or Early Puberty
These are the following ways to prevent early puberty at home:
- Avoid caffeinated food and beverages.
- Avoid artificially sweetened drinks with aspartames.
- Avoid high-salt intake.
- Avoid estrogen cream and ointment.
- Chelation therapy can help in treating precocious or early puberty.
- Consuming Vitamin D naturally though food or by supplements is a good home remedy for precocious or early puberty.
- Consuming probiotic foods such as yogurt, soft cheese, sour pickles is also an excellent remedy for precocious or early puberty.
Risk Factors for Precocious or Early Puberty
These are the factors that increase a child’s risk to precocious puberty.
- Girls are much most likely to develop precocious or early puberty.
- African-Americans usually are affected by the precocious or early puberty than the other races.
- Obesity is also a risk factor for precocious or early puberty.
- Other medical conditions such as McCune Albright Syndrome and Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia are the conditions, which involve in abnormal production of male hormones and one of their complication is precocious or early puberty. In some cases, precocious puberty is associated with hyperthyroidism.
- Radiation therapy of the central nervous system. Treatment for tumors, leukemia or any other conditions can increase the risk of precocious or early puberty.
Complications of Precocious or Early Puberty
Here are the some of the complications along with the precocious or early puberty:
- Social and emotional difficulties is the major complication of precocious or early puberty. Girls and boys may affect their self-esteem and increase the risk of depression who are experiencing precocious puberty.
- Because their bone matures faster than normal, it typically makes them grow faster in the beginning and also taller compared to their peers though they habitually stop to grow earlier than usual. It makes them shorter than the average adults.
What are the Long Term Effects of Precocious or Early Puberty?
Karen Rudolph, PhD of the University of Illinois studied more than 160 boys and girls for 3 years and they found out that there can be long term effects on mental health. These are the followings effects:
- Girls who have precocious or early puberty had increase rates of depression.
- Maturing boys initially had lower level of depression than later-maturing boys , they showed signs of anxiety.
- Negative self-image and interpersonal stress is also a long-term effect of precocious or early puberty.
Prevention of Precocious or Early Puberty
Here are the following ways to prevent precocious or early puberty:
- Prevent exposure to estrogens or testosterone which are available in the form of creams, consumer goods.
- Avoiding canned food which contain plastic is also a way to prevent precocious or early puberty.
- Limiting the sugar intake may also prevent the condition.
- Reduce obesity.
- Avoidance of stress.
Prognosis/Outlook for Precocious or Early Puberty
Most studies say that the prognosis/outcome for precocious or early puberty is excellent with early detection of the problem, finding the root cause of the problem and sticking to the treatment plan.
In the recent study from Israel shows that height gained after the discontinuation GnRH analogue therapy at 11 to 12 years old is greater for girls with the onset of precocious or early puberty before age 6 years than at age of 6 to 8 years.
Most studies show improvement in adult height compared with height at the start of therapy, but the improvement depends on the age of onset of precocious puberty.
Coping with Precocious or Early Puberty
Talk to your child about everything in changing in his/her body and make sure that they will understand that everyone will go through the same changes. Also encourage your child to do regular physical and social activities and encourage them to open-up their worries and concern to you freely without any hesitation. This is the best way to cope with precocious or early puberty.
Precocious puberty can be properly coped with by having a ecological household with less endocrine upsetting synthetic products and vegetable diet without excess hormones, calories or chemicals.